Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!
“The Big Short” didn’t open in the Quad Cities as early as it opened in Chicago, so I saw it there some time ago, and I can tell you that I need a crash course in the stock market. The breaking of the fourth wall with explanations helped some, but I am no financial guru and even discussions of derivatives from the Crash of 2008 were confusing for the likes of me (and English major).
Now, we have a movie with an All Star cast that includes Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Steve Carell, Marisa Tomei, Finn Wittrock and directed and written by Adam McKay, who is better known for lightweight comedies that do not require much thinking or intelligence.
This movie requires both. I found it to be a crash course in the financial crisis that nearly ruined the United States and world economy.
My favorite movie, so far, is “Spotlight,” but this film is definitely up there on the list of The Best of the Year. It was fun listening to NPR interview Adam McKay about the film. He talked about the advisers on the film and admitted that “Sell it all” is probably not the way a true broker would have voiced that particular command. Nevertheless, it was used in the film for the moment when Steve Carell finally agrees with his employees that the time for selling the “shorts” that bet against the variable mortgages was NOW.
I’ve not (yet) seen “Star Wars,” which I’m sure I’ll enjoy. I missed “Bridge of Spies” (Tom Hanks), but I did see “Spotlight,” which is the best I’ve seen, so far. I saw “Brooklyn,” but it’s never a good sign when you begin making a grocery list while the movie runs. It’s beautifully photographed and Saiorse Ronan will probably receive a nomination, but I found that the film dragged considerably.
I could have seen “Carol” in Chicago during the Film Festival, but I was scheduled to be on a panel at the Highland Park Library, and it only showed that night, so I missed that one, which should garner Oscar nods for its leads, at least.
I remember being impressed with Jason Bateman’s performance in the thriller “The Gift” and I enjoyed the sweet nostalgia of “Creed,” if not the hip-hop rap score that accompanied Michael B. Jordan’s star turn as the fighter being coached by Sylvester Stallone in the Burgess Meredith role.
There are other movies on my Must See list. I’ve been fortunate enough to see Michael Moore’s new documentary in Chicago in October and “Hitchcock/Truffaut” documentary then, also. Both were very good.
More about movies in the future, my Big Time hobby and love. Just don’t say you weren’t warned that “The Big Short” will require some serious concentration and the male lead in “Brooklyn” is a bit short for its female lead. Maybe the director of “Brooklyn” should have told Saiorse to lose the heels in the scene in Central Park where she is to put her head on her boyfriend’s shoulder, because, with heels on and their obvious height disparities, it was a really awkward scene.
As Press, we are not allowed to write a full review of any of the films or documentaries until they are released. We can only write capsule reviews, so I shall write capsule reviews of the 10 films I’ve seen so far. I was unable to take part in viewing any films yesterday (Wednesday, Oct. 21) as I was on a panel in Highland Park regarding writing children’s books. My Toyota GPS took me right past the front of Wrigley Field both going and coming, just as the Cubs were being trounced by the Mets, so, as you can imagine, getting there and back was a lengthy ordeal.
Here are the films in the order in which I saw them, with a capsule review or comment (full reviews later and some Q&A material to follow):
“I Smile Back”
This small budget film features Sarah Silverman proving she has serious acting chops. She portrays Laney, an attractive, intelligent suburban wife and mother of two adorable children who suffers from depression and turns to destructive coping mechanisms. The film electrified this year’s Sundance Film Festival crowds with its unblinking plunge into the nature of addiction and the roots of self-loathing. The routinely excellent cast includes Josh Charles (“The Good Wife,” “Masters & Johnson”) portraying her long-suffering husband, veteran actor Christopher Sarandon as her father, and television’s Thomas Sadoski as Donnie (“Life in Pieces,” “The Newsroom”). Directed by Adam Salky, the film was shot for $100,000 in just 20 days.
“Embers” – Director Claire Carre’s film depicts a world where a neurological epidemic leaves survivors with no long-term memory. (Think a world where everyone has Alzheimer’s disease.) One young woman, quarantined by her father, craves freedom. Two lovers struggle to remember their connection. Described as being “like Memento en masse” this was one of the slowest-moving films of those I screened.
“James White” – Directed by Josh Mond, the best thing about “James White” is the acting by Christopher Abbott (“Girls”) and Cynthia Nixon (“Sex and the City) as a mother dying of cancer. A raw, affecting film that nearly everyone who has ever lost a loved one will be able to relate to, it is as depressing as it sounds. Abbott has the intensity of a young Pacino and Josh Mond has done a great job of translating to the screen some of the emotions he experienced with the passing of his own mother. (“The movie feels like I’m opening up my diary all the time to strangers.”) Q&A from the director and star of the film to follow.
“They Look Like People” – by Director Perry Blackshear. The write-up made the film sound like a modern take on “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” which is not totally incorrect. However, the film turned out to be less a horror movie and more a disturbing look at a young man on the edge of paranoid schizophrenia. The Q&A following this film featuring Wyatt Goodwin as the lead proved that a talented filmmaker can work nearly alone and produce a film in one month on a shoestring budget. (I can honestly say that, having reviewed film since 1970—45 years, if you’re counting— this is the first time the lead in a movie I am about to attend came down the line of patrons beforehand handing out buttons promoting the film.)
“Howard Shore” – See previous article on the Tribute to Howard Shore and check for it on Saturday, up on ReadersEntertainment.com.
Director Eytan Rockaway of “The Abandoned.”
“The Abandoned” – From Director Eytan Rockaway comes this psychological horror film starring Jason Patric. In a vacant luxury complex, a young woman takes a job as one of two security guards covering the night shift (the complex is actually several New York courthouses). As she patrols the vast hallways, increasingly sinister phenomena threaten her, seemingly born from the building’s catacombs. A claustrophobic, bone-chilling thriller that features sound from the soundman honored for “Gravity.” A confusing ending, but a great beginning and middle.
“Looking for Grace” – This Australian film from Director/Writer Sue Brooks featured an almost all female group behind making it and the acting of Richard Roxburgh, who cleaned up at the 1st Annual Australian Oscars a few years back. Roxburgh played the lead in the television series “Rake” (which was later made into a tepid, short-lived American version starring Greg Kinnear). The amazing thing about the film is its ability to mix humor with pathos in the story of a rebellious teenager who leaves home by bus without permission to attend a concert several days away. It’s a look at rural Australia (shot in western Australia) and contains not only the story of Grace, the runaway off to see the rock group “Death Dog” with her friend Sapphire (and a pocketed $13,000 from the family’s safe), but also a story of everyday life and how everything can change in an instant. Recommended.
“Brooklyn” – This Ireland/UK film from Director John Crowley tells the story of Eilis (Saoirse Ronan of “The Lovely Bones”), a young Irish immigrant in 1950s Brooklyn who must decide whether to stay in America with her Italian boyfriend or return home to her widowed mother and a romance that develops unexpectedly when she must attend her sister Rose’s funeral. Beautiful cinematography and a well-told tale, but IMHO, they either needed to tell Miss Ronan to take off her high heels or they needed to find a taller male lead. The scenes in Central Park where she is to lay her head on her date’s shoulder are about as awkward as can be, since she is taller than he is, and must practically become a pretzel to pull the scene off at all. Develops slowly, but was enjoyable.
The entire clan came to the World Premiere of “Motley’s Law” at the Chicago Film Festival on Oct. 20th.
“Motley’s Law” – A documentary from Danish filmmaker Nicole Horanyi, this was the World Premiere of the film and both lead and director were present, so I will be getting some Q&A remarks posted later. A captivating documentary about a former Mrs. Wisconsin, Kimberley Motley, who is the only American allowed to practice law in Afghanistan. Motley defends US and European citizens detained in a corrupt system and finds herself targeted as a foreigner. (A grenade is thrown through her apartment window). Meanwhile, Claude, her husband, back home watching their 3 children, goes to Milwaukee for a class reunion and is shot in the face! More to come on this one.
Kimberley Motley and Danish director Nicole Horanyi at the World Premier of their film “Motley’s Law.”
“I Am Michael” – U.S. Director Justin Kelly takes on the true life story of a former gay advocate (Michael Glatze) who goes from outspoken champion of the gay community as a writer and magazine editor to become a conservative Christian pastor and “ex-gay” therapist. (Michelle Bachman’s husband might like this one). Zachary Quinto gives a great performance as James Franco’s gay lover. The film was executive produced by Gus Van Sant.